at long last…

WOW! Have I been on hiatus or what?

With the advent of 2013 I’ve been out foraging through the forests of life, overturning any rock or fallen limb searching for…change.

Rather than stagnate doing the same old, same old, I’ve been giving my cozy, little world the once over. Until I ventured forth outside the boundaries of my old skin…I didn’t realize how glazed over my eyes had become.

It happens…over time.

I liken it to putting on my new eye glasses from Costco last week.

Deutsch: Blaue Brille, eingeklappt.

Deutsch: Blaue Brille, eingeklappt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lifting the jazzy, hip eggplant-colored frames to my eyes for the first time I nearly toppled over.

It’d been a few years since I’d updated my prescription. Everything in the retail warehouse seemed to fly at me. The friendly sales clerk advised me to walk around…get comfy with my new look.

Happily, I’m finally settling in with the new and improved me.

My vision is crisper, and my life is catching up slowly, but surely.

I’m getting the hang of French…”Je m’appelle…hugmamma. …Comment t’appelles – tu?” Just when classes are winding down.

Aaahhh…but there’s always French 2.

Juice

Juice (Photo credit: hepp)

Hubby and I are juice fanatics now. Best way to incorporate lots of fruits and veggies. Besides chewing them, we’re now swallowing them as well.

I recommend Bed, Bath and Beyond‘s NUTRI-BULLET. Lots less fuss and muss than those mega-juicers.

Pilates almost did me in. Two privates with a lovely instructor nearly had me in traction.

Five visits to the chiropractor reintroduced me to my old body. Aches and pains that were like old friends…minor by comparison to what I’d endured after a couple of sessions on the reformer.

One 9:30 morning yoga class…an hour’s drive away…was enough to convince me that I couldn’t make it last long term.

So I’m stretching and walking…stretching and walking…stretching and walking.

I made it to 8 out of 10 Creative Writing classes. The folks were lovely, their stories compelling, but I didn’t derive much personally. So I’ll not be returning.

88/365 New Smart Phone

88/365 New Smart Phone (Photo credit: Theophilus Photography)

Instead, I might try a class to learn how to do more with my Smart Phone.

I can dial up friends and loved ones. I can text them. I can check voice mail and emails. I can take photos and view them. I can barely use Tango which allows me to see the person with whom I’m talking.

But it’s the APPS! I’d like to tap into those little gems. Wonders of this advanced social network world in which we live.

We all know…YOU SNOOZE…YOU LOSE!!!

…embrace change!…if i can do it…so can you…

tango dansen op het Spuiplein

tango dansen op het Spuiplein (Photo credit: Gerard Stolk (marche vers Pâques ))

………hugmamma. 

365 photo challenge: pupil

my daughter as a pupil of ballet……………………………………………………………….

and as a professional………………. she continues to train……………….as a pupil

and i’m still learning all the intricacies of ballet………………………………………..

as a pupil of art appreciation…………………………………………………hugmamma.

welcome news…from across the “pond”

The Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph), at the ...

Image via Wikipedia

Sometime in the 80’s my husband and I toured Paris. It amazes me to think back to how I called long distance, 2 or 3 times, and spoke with the hotel clerk, reserving a room for a couple of nights. There was no Expedia or Travelocity to compare rates and accomodation details, or even Trip Advisor to guide me through the myriad of pros and cons about an establishment. Chock it up to youth. I didn’t know better, so I plunged ahead, uncaring if the woman at the other end of the phone was rolling her eyes at my obvious lack of sophistication or inability to speak French.

Thank goodness the next time we venture back to the City of Light, the internet will pave the way. This time there’ll be 3 adults whose needs will have to be met, including one 25-year-old who’ll want to do as Cyndi Lauper wails in her song,”Girls just want to have fu-un!”

I’ll have to enlist my French blogging buddy, My English Thoughts, for some help there. Maybe she’ll drag my daughter along to some of Paris’ hot spots, after her elderly parents totter off to bed long before midnight.

I’m hoping when our family does make it back to France’s capital of haute couture and irrepressible charm, the Parisians will be as amenable to us as they were to the author of the following article. I’ve come to love Joe Queenan‘s irreverent sense of humor, which always seems to be “on point.” He publicly admits to things about which most of us probably “bite our tongues.” I guess he’s allowed to get away with it since he writes a column for the formidable Wall Street Journal.

Needless to say when I was in Paris decades ago, the French were as reserved as I’d heard they would be. They weren’t rude, but they weren’t falling all over themselves to be nice either. Being raised to be invisible, an Asian thing, my husband and I had no trouble blending into the background wherever we went . So we were most accommodating of the Parisians then-disdain for American tourists. Hopefully this time my old-age crankiness won’t get me, and the locals, into a battle of the wills, the ill-wills, that is. They’ll have no issues with my always-calm spouse and sweet-tempered off-spring. I’m both, unless I see an injustice about to happen. Then…get out of my way! This 5’2 senior will make you rue the day God gave you 2 ears to hear what spews forth like venom from a cobra!

Okay, well…now according to Queenan, I’ll have no need for any of that. I’ll just have a wonderful, heady touristy time in “gay Paree!”

French Twist: Meet Monsieur Nice Guy

 If you’re a seasoned inhospitality buff like me, the very worst has happened: The French have stopped being mean and surly.

I started to notice this two years ago when I spent two weeks in Paris, and an equally unexpected aura of congeniality was certainly evident when I visited southern France last fall. But now the restraining walls of condescension and nastiness have utterly collapsed and a wave of warmth and courtesy have flooded in. Sacre bleu.

Plaque rue mouffetard

Image via Wikipedia

During my four-day stay in Paris last month, waiters,Paris Cafe, Paris, France concierges, museum guards and even cabdrivers all treated me with jaw-dropping affability. The ticket-taker at the Pantheon did not scream at me when I asked where Emile Zola was buried. The woman in the chocolate shop did not sneer when I asked for directions to the Rue Mouffetard (it was directly around the corner.)

The garcon in the posh restaurant did not treat me like the prototypical Ugly American when I asked what a “cocotte” was. The clerk at my two-star hotel asked if I would like to use her computer to print out my boarding pass, and went out of her way to get the broken elevator fixed so that I wouldn’t have to climb three flights of stairs on my gimpy legs.

The Eiffel tower at sunrise, taken from the Pl...

Image via Wikipedia

Wherever I went–the Louvre and Orangerie, the Comedie Francaise, Honore de Balzac’s house, even the Eiffel Tower–everyone went our of their way to be charming and helpful. For a minute there I thought I was at Epcot.

What happened? What triggered this explosion of courtesy and warmth? Well, for starters, the recession, which would motivate even the most chauvinistic French to tone it down a notch when dealing with tourists. But France has had recessions before, and that never took the edge off those legendary brusque, haughty people.

No, my suspicion is that much of the coarseness and incivility toward foreigners–and particularly toward Americans–stemmed from embarrassment about having collaborated with the Nazis. Anti-americanism was practically an official state policy under Charles de Gaulle, but now the war is no longer an issue. Most of the World War II generation has died out and been replaced by young people who do not have a chip on their shoulder.

Street market in nearby Rue Mouffetard

Image via Wikipedia

Friendly young people. Helpful young people. I know this will come as a shock to those who have not visited France for a while, but the French are now friendlier than the Italians, than the Irish, than the girls who greet you at Hooters. This unanticipated onslaught of goodwill totally floored me.

As a globe-trotting malingerer, I have always enjoyed returning from a jaunt abroad with fresh support for popular American stereotypes about foreigners. Yes, Belgium really is boring. Yes, the Swedes really are laconic. Yes, the Scots really do like a dram or two.

But now these stereotypes are collapsing like wisps of straw. Though most Americans still associate England with bad food–fish and chips, bangers and mash–the truth is that dining out in London is now an absolute joy, with top-flight restaurants everywhere. You can get a good meal even in the provinces, which was certainly not the case before Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair dragged the U.K. into the modern world. So there goes another beloved, hoary stereotype.

As a world-class spoilsport and curmudgeon, I now have less and less anecdotal material to fall back on when I want to blast another society. Luckily, when last I checked, the Germans were still arrogant, the Italians were still incompetent, and the Canadians were still reliably unexciting.

Still, if I go to Berlin this fall and find out that the Germans are no longer bossy and overbearing, I’m going to throw in the towel and turn into an American who doesn’t overeat, overspend or take the first five minutes of every conversation trying to figure out how much everybody else in the room paid for their house. I’m warning you frogs, you Teutons, you Russkies: Two can play this game. Columnist's name

the guy makes me laugh…even though much of what he says is not meant to be funny…hugmamma.

“blog buddies,” getting it…finally

Figuring out how “blog buddies” works has been a bit of a mystery. But I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. It seems to be a matter of finding bloggers with whom I share common interests, and once found, trying to establish continuing dialogue. I’ve begun doing that with a couple of sites, by growing the conversation. It’s not easy keeping several conversations going at the same time. But it is fun, once you begin. I’m sure I’ll find the technical components that make it easier to check in with everyone, without having to click in all the time. Takes me a little bit, but I eventually manage. Good exercise for growing brain cells, and staving off Alzheimer’s.

The first blogger who taught me about being a blog buddy was Scriptor Obscura. A knowledgeable techy, she was the first to leave regular comments and “likes” on my posts. I was very touched when she asked to run some of them on her blog. She allowed me to decide which they should be, but I left the decision with her, emailing those she “liked.” Not all mind you, I didn’t want to overrun her site. As passionate as me about causes, Scriptor Obscura minces no words in her support of issues. A person less than half my age, I admire her conviction to promote compassion for those less fortunate.

Another blogger with whom I’ve begun a conversation is jeanne’s blog. I just learned that she and I share a love of antiques, hunting them down, owning, and cherishing great finds. Her blog’s photo header displays 2 adorable lhasa apsos or shitzus, not sure which. I had a shitzu, years ago, named Sushi. She was the sweetest, smallest dog. Loved her to pieces. Jeanne’s gardens are lovely, like an oasis. Mine will be, once the last dregs of winter pull up stakes and leave. She also shares recipes, which shows a love of cooking, another interest of mine. She’s gotten me started doing book reviews. And the lady has a compassionate spirit, as is demonstrated in inspirational messages she posts.

Image representing Etsy as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

The Daily Dabbler is another blog with whom I’ve begun another conversation. It’s centered around crafting, a shared interest of ours. Both dabblers in creating things, I think we both realize making a living at it is best left to the professionals, not amateurs like ourselves. Nonetheless it’s fun to check out the creative offerings on ETSY, where all manner of beautiful crafts are sold.

My French friend has shared so much of herself in my interviews with My English Thoughts. Besides our love of travel, though we’ve both not the kind of time or money to globe trot, we have the commonality of the theatre, where she works, and my daughter performs. I can understand the trials and tribulations she must endure in such a unique occupation, because of those my daughter herself has endured. But I’m sure they would both say that there’s also something magical about the stage, especially behind-the-scenes. What’s also captivating about Isa is her simplicity. She seems to “go with the flow,” dealing with life as it presents itself. At this stage in my life, taking life as it comes is less stressful. My friend from France has learned it at a young age. Kudos to her!

I’m getting to know other bloggers as well. Random Thoughts from Mid-Life speaks my language, although much better, I think. An excellent writer who expresses herself so clearly, with seeming understatement. By contrast, I think my words explode on the page. But we’re different people, with different messages. Learning from others is always good, great in fact. And I’ve a lot to learn.

Space Buddies

Image via Wikipedia

Pet lovers such as those who blog at The (mis)Adventures of Sage, and Lifewith4cats remind me of my own four-legged family, and how much joy they bring their human family. Never underestimate the healing power of animals. They give so much of themselves, asking so little in return. And they get me up and exercising, even when I’d rather be lazy and blogging. A walk with Mocha, or running down the hallway with Sitka and Juneau, or crouching on all fours to stroke Sunkist, remind me that I too need to move about to keep my joints oiled. And how they make me laugh, watching some of their antics. ha, ha.

So I take my hat off to all who’ve nurtured their own communities of blog buddies. It’s an art form which when begun, takes thought and effort to maintain. But the rewards of connecting with like souls is immeasurable. I encourage you to visit these blogs mentioned above, and I’ll let you know of other blog buddies with whom I start a dialogue.

writing is fun…sharing with others enhances the enjoyment…hugmamma. 

“and the award goes to…”

I’ve been doing some thinking as to whom my “Stylish Blogger Award”

might be given. One blogger immediately came to mind, “My English Thoughts.” While she may not blog as often as I’m sure she would like because of her hectic work schedule, she nonetheless puts her heart “out there” when she does. I credit her for stepping outside her comfort zone, taking on the English speaking world as if it were her native environment. I’m sure we can all relate to being fearful of the unknown, of being ridiculed for our less than perfect efforts.

What came across in the interview I did with “My English Thoughts” Photois total trust. Her words flowed naturally, without hesitation about their correctness or appropriateness. She entrusted her blithe spirit into my hands, and I gave her to you as is. In return, she made me feel good about me.

“My English Thoughts” said I needn’t fret that Parisians might consider me “less than.” In fact, she said there’s even friction amongst themselves. No surprise. Countrymen everywhere can suffer disdain for one another. Look at the Middle East. Look at our tea-partiers.

Without hesitation “My English Thoughts” asked to interview me, and posted the results on her blog. In addition to sharing my words, she took the time and energy to post pictures that enhanced what I wrote. Her consideration to make me look good, was heartwarming.

And so I award my “Stylish Blogger Award” given me by one compassionate soul, Scriptor Obscura, to another whose style is not about herself, but about others, “My English Thoughts.” Helping others is what’s needed most in this world of “what’s in it for me-ism.” It may not win popularity contests. It may not garner hosts of followers who shower their admiration. But knowing that one’s voice may make a small difference to one someone is pretty powerful in my estimation. Scriptor ObscuraPhoto for her constant support, and My English Thoughts for her chutzpah are pretty good company in a lineup for “Stylish Blogger Award.”

But I’d like to go further, and extend the accolade to all bloggers who have compassion for others, and share that message in their postings. We can all be positive voices in the effort to uplift others, especially those in dire need…and at various times in our lives, we may all be in need of uplifting.

via Flickr”][1] As I walk through the garden of Eden, the ...

we can all pat ourselves on the back…for thinking of others…first…hugmamma.

ever have one of those years?

I know the year’s not done, but in the words of the reigning Queen Elizabeth, thus far mine’s been an “annus horribilis.” I’m not complaining, well maybe a tad. It’s more that I’m amazed at being blindsided by events over which I’ve had no control. I’m sure I speak for every one of us.

For me the chain of events began in late Fall when my daughter returned home for health reasons. As her mom I naturally felt the time with us was not just about physical healing. I knew it included emotional, spiritual and mental care as well. Her inner wellness was just as crucial as her external wellness. That for me meant making the journey with her. I felt her lows, and I reveled in her ascents back to normalcy. But it was a roller coaster ride for sure. And while I made certain that she had all kinds of support, I thought I could go it alone. Of course I reached out to my husband and friends, but moms tend to take on more than they can sustain. I didn’t know I had, until my daughter left.

Illness came calling almost as soon as our daughter boarded her flight home. I was laid up for weeks battling digestive, as well as respiratory ailments. At the time my husband was away on a business trip. Not being able to get out of the house for stretches at a time, my spirits were stretched thin, very thin. Not getting to exercise class regularly didn’t help.

Deciding to have physical therapy for chronic upper back, shoulder and neck pain once I felt well enough, got the endorphins moving. The sun seemed to be smiling down upon me once again as I got outdoors, breathing deeply of fresh air and renewed hope for better days ahead. Of course Christmas needed to go back into plastic, storage bins, but I hadn’t the strength yet for that monstrous chore. It would have to wait until I returned from our trip to see our daughter perform. But I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me 3,000 miles away.

Almost from the get-go, our family was engulfed in a discussion of differing opinions. Any mother of a young adult knows we must tread lightly with our opinions. Yes, I want her to know how I feel, but I don’t want to live her life. At 61, I don’t want to live mine, AND hers. Been there, done that, don’t want to do it again. Besides, she’s very capable of living her own life. But it’s very difficult not wanting to share my decades of experience, in the hopes that she won’t make my mistakes. Needless to say our family endured a few days of tip-toeing around one another. In the midst of it all, my husband left on another business trip. And he’s usually the neutral party. After a day or so, and much discussion, my daughter and I resumed our loving, BFF status.

Throughout the ordeal, the flu was brewing in my daughter’s gut. She danced sick, endured our brouhaha, and finally succumbed. The weekend after her performance I took her to the ER with a migraine headache that included dizziness, nausea, and mild vomiting. We sat in the lobby with many, other sick people waiting our turn to be seen, first by the insurance clerk and then the nurse, and then the doctor. Our visit began at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, and didn’t end until 11 p.m. that night. The best part for my daughter was the last hour-and-a-half, when she slept like a baby because of the Benadryl she was getting intravenously. At that point, I was so light-headed, not having eaten since breakfast. Once I told the nurse about my hunger, she and the doctor wrapped things up pretty quickly. Once we got home, my daughter fell into bed, immediately dozing off again. I proceeded to raid the icebox. I know, my age is showing, but “icebox” somehow seems more apropos than “refrigerator.” Maybe because it makes me feel like a kid again, when MY mom did the worrying.

With my daughter sleeping in the next morning, I felt life was finally back on track, so I sat down to blog on my laptop at her dining table. Mindlessly writing, enjoying the moment, I surfed the internet for a picture to add to my post. As soon as I clicked on a photo of a picturesque beach on Maui, all Hell seemed to break loose. Those words blinking incessantly before me “virus, virus, virus’ will forever be emblazoned on my brain. Waking my daughter, together we wend our way through Hell, and back. Trying to buy a pop-up anti-virus security product, “system tool,” only got us more viruses. In fact, the laptop screen went entirely red with “VIRUS” glaring at us in huge, black letters. Using my daughter’s computer we sought online help. We found Tech Pros whose opening page warned of “system tool” being a scam. A half-hour’s drive away, we left my poor, inundated laptop in the hands of the experts..

At a cost of $199 plus tax, my good-as-new laptop was back home with me a couple of days later.  It’s actually better than before. Tech Pros installed a security system, in addition to zapping all those yucky viruses, “dead as door nails.” (Where’d that expression come from, I wonder?) Talk about bed-bugs, I really felt like the viruses had crawled into bed with me. As we used to say growing up on Maui as kids, those viruses gave me the “heegie-beegies!” The correct saying, according to my daughter, is “heebie-geebies.” Whichever it is, it’s exactly how I felt.

Oh, and then there was the matter of cancelling the credit cards we’d used to try to purchase “system tool,” whose sole purpose was probably to steal our information. My daughter’s Visa was replaced in a day or so at a rushed shipping cost of $16. My Master Card arrived the following day at no extra charge to me, except that the UPS driver left the envelope on the wrong doorstep. I learned of their error after I arrived home last night. While I was still at my daughter’s trying to track down my new credit card, I ended up having to cancel it, and have another new one sent to my home address. 

As if we’d not had enough I got hit with “the bug,” or so we thought. I started feeling the nausea my daughter had experienced. We thought it might be the flu. Would those viruses ever leave us be? As it turns out, we decided I was probably experiencing gastritis or the beginnings of an ulcer. Over the past few months, heart burn symptoms have returned time and again. Getting on a regimen of Prilosec and Tums as needed, as well as a diet of whole grains, steamed veggies and selected fruits seems to have calmed my digestive system down considerably.

But just when my health ordeal was unfolding, Mother Nature decided to ratchet things up a bit with a tornado watch. With heavy rains and winds whipping about, the sirens at my daughter’s apartment complex began blaring. Turning on the TV to the news channel, we learned of a full-blown tornado watch in our area. As the newscaster followed its movement, my daughter and I emptied her bathroom of anything that could kill us if we were to hunker down, wrapped in heavy quilts in the bathtub. My husband, back home from his business trip, called while we were preparing for the worst. Needless to say, he was worried. Needless to say, I was panicked, my digestive symptoms getting worse by the minute.

As I’m sure you’ve already surmised, no tornado touched down in our area, although sightings were reported in other parts. Due to return home to Washington, I hoped my digestive symptoms would abate long enough for me to make the trip which included a stop-over. Fingers crossed, I checked in online.

When I awoke yesterday I was good to go, having taken one of my daughter’s sleeping supplements which helped me rest through most of the night. I even blogged, putting out a post, before packing away my laptop. My husband called making certain I was, in fact, traveling. Later he called back warning that my flight was delayed 45 minutes, which would affect my connecting flight. The hour wait was now shortened to half-an-hour. I wasn’t deterred. I was ready to return home and be sick in my own house, rather than “riding it out” at my daughter’s.

When I got to the airport, I called my husband to say I’d made it, and asked if he could check for other flights in case I missed my connection. He called back with great news. The connecting flight was also delayed by 45 minutes. Hallelujah! God decided to give me a break. As it turned out, I had to work for it. My flight arrived in Terminal C. I had to high-tail it to Terminal D, which I did. Panting, my feet literally flew as I rushed past anyone and everyone making sure I wouldn’t miss my flight home. So determined to make it, I wound up standing in line at the wrong gate. God intervened again when another passenger informed me of my mistake. I hoofed it out of there, making it to the right line. I needn’t have worried. The flight didn’t leave the gate until well past the delayed departure time.

The only thing that hurt by the time I landed home in Washington, was my fanny. Could they make airplane seats any harder? But I’m home, with my husband, cats and dog. And you know what else? I’m even delighted to see that Christmas is still with us. My cat-sitter left a note saying, in part, “…I love all the xmas decorations! China Rose.” Don’t you just love her name? And she’s a sweetheart to boot.

The year’s not done as I’ve said. But I’m determined that it’ll get better. So I’m rejoining my friends in exercise class, continuing with my physical therapy appointments, healthier diet, and blogging. I’ll look into starting yoga, tackling other writing projects, and an adult ed class, perhaps in French.

we can all make lemonade…out of lemons…hugmamma.  🙂